Many of you mentioned grammar/punctuation/spelling/conventions as areas of concern at conferences. I wanted you know that I heard you!! Trust me-- it's a concern of mine as well. Students don't know the "rules" of grammar, and it shows in their writing. Unfortunately, teaching them the rules is usually completely ineffective because even if they memorize the rules, they fail to adequately apply them to their own writing. Research shows time and time again that the only truly effective way for students to improve their grammar is to see more good writing. They need to READ!
A recent experience with a neighbor inspired me to rethink my grammar instruction, and I blogged about my plan for the Oakland Schools Literacy website. You can read my post here if you're interested. I've got some ideas for targeted grammar instruction coming in the month of December. Keep your eyes peeled for more details as the month goes on.
AP Language: Nov. 30-Dec. 4
I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving with your families! We spent a lot of time with both sides of our family, but I still managed to squeeze in grading the Unit 3 Reading Tests that students took the day before break. I’m so glad I did because the improvement was exciting to see. On the Unit 2 Reading Test, the average score was a 23.7/30. On the Unit 3 Reading Test, the average score was a 27/30!!! WOW!! Hard work and practice are paying off in AP Language. That said, there were a few students who didn’t improve or didn’t improve as much as I would have liked. If your student is one of those, now is the time to come see me. There is one more test that can replace this score in January. Students need to see me before school or during AA so we can start to figure out how to improve their skills.
This week begins our Unit 4 study of Gender. We will read a number of essays that explore our expectations for each gender. Which roles does society expect men and women to fulfill? How have those changed over time and how do they continue to change? The readings for this unit often spark some very lively discussions. I encourage you to ask your students about the class readings this week.
Three important notes for this week:
Have a great week and enjoy the rest of this chilly Sunday. I’m off to Kensington for a hike with the cub scouts :)
ELA 10: Nov. 30-Dec. 4
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a great week at the Maguire house. Lots of family, food and fun times with the kiddos.
In ELA 10 this week, we are wrapping up our work with the literature circle books (hopefully your students finished these over the long weekend!). Students will do a final reading constructed response and another discussion with their small groups about the book.
While those discussions are going on, I’ll be reviewing the informational text reading skills we worked with prior to break in small groups with the students. Students will review objective summarizing, citing with MLA, choosing and embedding quotes, finding biased language, and assessing the validity of an argument. On Wednesday, students will take the final assessment of those skills by reading a new pair of articles and applying what they’ve learned to them. I had hoped to do this assessment prior to break, but
On Thursday and Friday, we’ll turn our attention to preparing for our trip to the DIA. We will begin examining how the context of a piece (written, visual, or spoken) impacts the author’s message. We will begin working on researching a writer’s or artist’s background and time period to better understand his or her purpose. All of this work is preparation for our next big writing assignment: a research based essay about a piece of art the students see at the DIA on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Three important notes for this week:
Have a great week and enjoy the rest of this chilly Sunday. I’m off to Kensington for a hike with the cub scouts :)
ELA 10: Nov. 23-24
We spent a lot of time this week working on reading editorials and examining the arguments put forth in them. Students read about the Syrian refugee crisis and the banning of the Confederate flag. In each case, students were given two opposing editorials and asked to identify the bias, summarize the main argument, and judge its validity. For all of the readings, we went back to our unit theme: Is power being abused in this instance? If so, how are people responding?
They did very well with this skill and we will continue working on it Monday and Tuesday this week. If you have any time over the long weekend, try engaging your student in some debate over some current editorials. Here are some links to some different opinion pages for various media outlets:
I tried to give you a blend of conservative and liberal sources so that your students can continue practicing the skill of looking for bias and judging validity.
When we get back from break, they’ll be practicing writing their own arguments.
They also need to be finished with their lit circle books the day they return from break. Students will participate in a graded discussion on either Monday or Tuesday of next week.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving!
AP Lang: Nov 23-24
One of the things I’m most thankful for is the short week this week!! We have been working really hard in AP Language for the past two weeks, and we are all ready for a break. But, before that break, we have two important tasks.
Monday: Last writing workshop day for Argument Essays. As of last Friday, students have had multiple opportunities to ask me questions, conference with each other, and look at sample essays. Many of your students have risen to the water buffalo challenge quite nicely and have excellent essays. Monday will be their final day to ask specific questions, edit for one another, and discuss the quality of the arguments they’re making. Encourage them to let you read their essays! Essays are due when we return from break.
Tuesday: Unit 3 Reading Test . I debated the wisdom of giving a test the day before a break, but the majority of the students agreed they’d rather have it out of the way. After Friday’s review of the practice test, I’m confident that students are ready to show me their growth with these skills. Some students are still struggling with some of the skills; if your student is one of those, remind him or her that there is still more time! This is the second of three chances to show mastery. If they continue to struggle on this test, we’ll do more practice and try again in early January.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving! I’m looking forward to a long weekend and lots of family time. I hope you’ll have the same!
ELA 10: Nov. 16-20
This week we will focus on two main things.
2. Informational Reading skills: We read several articles last week about abuses of power or perceived abuses of power. We will continue to read more current events articles and work on five distinct skills while reading those types of texts:
Students practiced those skills last week and received a formative (not “counted”) grade in MiStar to give them an idea of their current skill level with each skill. As we continue to practice, I’ll update that score in MiStar. By the end of the unit, students will demonstrate their mastery of those five informational reading skills on a summative unit assessment
Students will also receive the permission slip and information sheet for the Detroit Institute of Art field trip on Monday. I will be sending home a plea for more chaperones as well. We need at least six adults (not including me!) to go on the field trip. I currently have three. If you can spare the time, we’d love to have you join us.
Finally, students are being given the opportunity to retake the Unit 1 Reading Assessment if they did not score well the first time around. Rather than just "try again", though, students need to come in to AA and work with me prior to taking the retake. I want to make sure we can close the skill gaps before the students take the second test. Please encourage your students to take advantage of this opportunity if they did not score well on the Unit 1 test. The retake is December 9, so students have two AAs prior to that to come in for help.
Let me know if you have any questions about our work this week. I look forward to seeing you at conferences!
AP Lang: Nov.16-20
As I warned you last week, we will be knee deep in the muck and mud of writing this week. I’ve told the students that they need to channel their inner water buffalos (see last week’s post if this makes no sense to you) and dig into making their essays great.
There are two main goals for this essay.
For many students, #2 is the biggest challenge. For me, it’s the most important one. #2 is all about academic maturity. It will prepare them for the type of academic mindset they will need in college. If you can help me out by encouraging them to keep at their essays next week, I’d really appreciate it.
Monday through Thursday will be dedicated to Writing Workshop. Each day the students will have a new focus--quality examples, transitions, voice, meta-commentary--and will use their They Say/I Say texts to help guide their revision. I will be available all of those days to give specific feedback and guidance to students who ask for it. Encourage your students to be prepared self-advocates. If they are ready with a rough draft on Monday, they will be in great shape.
These essays will be due the Monday we return from Thanksgiving break (November 30), but I am encouraging the students to have them completed prior to break. They’re even welcome to turn them in prior to leaving if they would like have them off their plates completely.
Along with essays, students will continue their work with close reading. There are no new unit texts to read this week; rather, students will be preparing for the next unit reading assessment. They will have a practice test that we will work on throughout the week to give them chances to prepare.
Let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to meeting you at conferences!
Last week The New York Times published an article called Everything You Need To Know About the New SAT. In it, several test prep companies are quoted talking about the challenges in preparing for the new test. One comment was particularly striking. The education director for a company called PrepMatters said, “If you don’t read well and happily, this test isn’t going to be your friend.”
Four years ago, Novi High School’s English Department committed to changing the culture around reading at our school. We have added dedicated time for independent reading in all of our courses, we have committed to spending more time helping students find books they enjoy, and we have built classroom reading libraries that appeal to the interests and abilities of our students. We have not finished the job, but we are well on our way to providing an environment where students can read well and happily.
When the juniors took the PSAT this year--the first look at this new test--my juniors were overwhelmingly positive about the English section. Many said it felt easy, and that’s a great sign. Novi’s English Department has been revising and rewriting our curriculum to fit the Common Core Standards over the past seven years. The new test certainly isn’t easy, but it feels “easy” to many of our students because it’s assessing the skills they’ve been learning and practicing ever since they started high school. This test aligns with the Common Core and will hopefully be as accurate of a measure of their learning as a standardized test can be.
We will have to wait and see about how the scores correlate with the students’ feelings about the test, but in the meantime, I’m hopeful that our students are well prepared for this brand new test. Parents often ask what their students can do to prepare for standardized tests, and this year I will ask you to do exactly what the test prep companies are suggesting. Help your students develop as readers.Encourage reading for pleasure at home. Help your students find books that they’re interested in reading. There’s always a temptation to go out and buy the latest test prep materials and encourage your student to do practice test upon practice test. While those things can be helpful, this new test values students who are real readers. The more you can do to help your students genuinely enjoy reading, the better off they’ll be.
ELA 10: Nov. 9-13
I’m excited to begin Unit 2 this week as I think it’s one of the most engaging units we do all year in ELA 10. The unit’s thematic focus is Abuses of Power and how we respond when we see them. Tenth grade students typically respond very strongly to this idea, and it is easy to engage them in great conversations about justice.
The unit’s learning goals are here. We will discuss and revisit these in class throughout the unit as students’ skills grow and develop.
This week, students will receive their lit circle books. Students are choosing from seven books: 1984, Ender’s Game, The Hunger Games, Little Brother, Before We Were Free, The Compound, and Station Eleven. All of the books deal with power struggles and characters who must decide how to respond to those abusing power. The books represent a wide range of reading skill and complexity. I will take their preferences into account when I create reading groups, but I will also use their reading scores from NWEA to place students in an attempt to appropriately challenge everyone. Students hoping to take AP Language or IB English next year should definitely read 1984 as it is the most challenging.
In addition to our lit circles, we’ll also begin our nonfiction study of the unit thematic question: How do I recognize and respond to abuses of power? We’ll look at artistic responses to abuses of power this week and use examples like the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei and this NPR story to discuss whether or not artists have a relevant voice in questioning problems they see in society. Students will do research about some of these artists and practice citing their research appropriately.
All of this is preparing kids for our upcoming trip to the DIA on December 8. I’m still looking for chaperones--I have two and we need six! Please send me an email (email@example.com) ASAP if you’re interested in helping out.
AP Lang: Nov. 9-13
This week we are reading one of my favorite poems by Marge Piercy, To Be Of Use. I like it because Piercy writes about the value of working hard for something and “straining in the muck and the mud” when work gets difficult. This is a theme that we will apply for the next few weeks as they work hard on their newest essay--an argumentative essay. I plan to push them to dig into the muck and mud of writing to produce their highest quality writing yet. I blogged about this process last year for Oakland Schools if you’re interested in more detail of what I mean.
We’ll do a benchmark, timed argument essay on Tuesday. I’ll grade it so they know where they stand, but it won’t “count.” They need to start getting a feel for writing under pressure, and I need to know what types of raw skills they have with timed, argumentative writing. Wednesday, I’ll give the unit essay assignment, and we’ll begin discussing different ways to approach it in class. I’ll begin writing conferences in class on Friday for students who are ready. Encourage your students to talk through their arguments with you. Often students need to talk through their arguments and be pushed to consider alternative points of view. Their positions (and essays!) will evolve and grow in complexity the more they talk.
We are also doing a great deal of reading this week to practice our ability to discern an author’s argument in a text. Students will read two contemporary pieces--an excerpt from Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and an essay about the philosophical side of the medical field--and an “old” piece entitled “Labour” by Thomas Carlyle. Many students are struggling with reading and understanding the complicated, older texts. Please encourage them to tackle these early and take advantage of the extra resources (especially the guided reading videos) on Google Classroom.
Last thing: rhetorical analysis essays are being returned on Monday. I tried to get them done by last Friday but just couldn’t swing it. Please talk to your students about their essays. I try really hard to give lots of comments so they understand their score and know what they need to do next to improve. If they don’t understand those two things, encourage them to come see me and we can talk about the essay one-on-one.
Have a great week--enjoy arguing with your students ;)
Mrs. Hattie Maguire